Monday, September 19, 2011


When I heard about the decisions made at Oxford [to retire certain words from the Oxford Concise Dictionary] my first reaction was “Forsooth!” Well, OK, not absolutely the first but among the first. Because “forsooth” is a spectacular case of an abandoned word. It now lives in the shadows, reduced from a common term meaning “truly” to an archaic fragment for jocular use only. It will remain in good dictionaries for centuries, if only because it’s part of enduring masterpieces by great writers (“Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue,” says the Fool to Goneril in King Lear). But its future as a way of expressing thoughts and ideas is non-existent.
Shouldn’t we have a category for endangered words? Perhaps we need a system of adopting words to keep them safe and well, the way people adopt favourite stretches of highway. We would sign up, promise to use our chosen words as often as possible and of course object when they are misused or threatened with abandonment.
~"When Words Die," by Robert Fulford (on

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